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Opinion: Tax will always be taxing

But the Inland Revenue's IT department doesn't need to make it worse

If you’re self employed, then this time a couple of months ago you would probably have been under considerable strain. As if trying to make ends meet wasn’t hard enough, you would have been trawling through a year’s worth of receipts and invoices in an effort to get your tax returns in on time.

We’ve all seen the television campaign with technophile Adam Hart-Davies instructing us to get the self-assessment documents in by 31 January, or to have completed the online forms by this date.

Now I have no problem with Mr Hart-Davies; in fact, he has done terrific work for the studies of science and history, two subjects that are very close to my heart. Though my first choice of presenter would actually have been Lester Piggott.

But what if you can’t complete the online forms because the Inland Revenue’s servers can’t take the strain of everyone filling the forms in on time? Well, the Inland Revenue will tell you, as they did thousands of other people on 31 January, that you should have done it earlier.

Erm, excuse me, but what’s the point in setting deadlines when you don’t stick to them yourself?

Buses and trains don’t consistently turn up 10 minutes before the timetable says they’re due to arrive. If I handed in my copy on time – okay, this doesn’t always happen, but nobody’s perfect – only to be told that it was late, serious arguments would be had.

Thankfully, the geniuses at the Inland Revenue who, let us remember, had failed to predict or provide the necessary resources, decided to extend the deadline for those who had been prevented from filing their documents on time. But it seems utterly ridiculous to me for the Inland Revenue to convince people that doing their tax returns is going to be simple when it turns the process into such a nightmare.

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